Best Sweet Vermouth for Manhattans: Top 5 Tastiest Bottles
The Manhattan, a classic drink which, against what popular history details, was the creation of a nondescript bartender called ‘Black’ at a Broadway bar close to Houston Street. The drink got thrust into the limelight after being served in honor of Samuel J. Tilden, a presidential candidate, by Dr. Marshall at the historically famous Manhattan Club in New York City.
Originally, the Manhattan stuck to a single recipe of using Italian Vermouth, American whiskey, and Angostura Bitters (a key component in many cocktails, globally). A large percentage of alcohol present in the Manhattan is due to the ABV present in whiskey as the ABV for Whiskey ranges from between 40% to 50%.
Angostura bitters is regarded as being an acquired taste with an ABV of 44.7%. It was first created by a German surgeon going by the name Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siergert in the 1820s. The formula used to create it is a closely guarded corporate secret and is allegedly known to only 5 individuals.
The key ingredient to any drinkable Manhattan is Vermouth. It is a preferred ingredient in many cocktails as it is helps lower the alcohol content in cocktails which have strong spirits are their base.
First produced in Italy in a place called Turin, modern day Vermouth is a descendant of a production process that sprung up in the mid to late 18th Century. As with most other alcoholic drinks, Vermouth was first used for various medicinal purposes.
Vermouth is a type of wine. To be more specific, it is categorized as being an aperitif wine. All Vermouth have a bittersweet characteristic. This is a common fact for all aperitif wines and is the reason why they are also known to promote appetite.
An aperitif wine is aromatized. The aromatized characteristic is given to wines that have been blended with aromatic roots, barks, and herbs. The difference between Vermouth and other aromatized wines is that Vermouth has also been Fortified.
Fortified wines are those that have a higher much higher ABV than normal wines. Normal wines are known to have an ABV range of between 10% and 14%. Fortified wines, on the other hand, have an ABV of 13% to 24%. To fortify wine, an almost neutral grape brandy, or other spirits, is usually added before bottling the wine.
Vermouth is usually sold in different colors. The main color variations are white (also called colorless), caramel (reddish-brown), and red. There are other colors available, but these are the most famous. These colors are used by different producers to set themselves apart from competition.
One aspect that remains constant in the world of Vermouth is that there are 2 main types of Vermouth in production. These are: Sweet or Dry.
How is Vermouth Made?
Stage 1: Preparation
To produce Vermouth, each manufacturer has to start with a base of either freshly pressed grape juice (containing the seeds, skins, and stems of the grapes) or grape wine (which is neutral).
Stage 2: Fortication
The manufacturer than adds alcohol to the base. Spirits are the top choice when it comes to this step. The reason for this is to increase the alcohol content in the base. This is also known as the Fortification stage
Stage 3: Aromatization
Aromatic roots, barks, and herbs are then added to the base.
In the event where the manufacturer used freshly pressed grape juice (also referred to as ‘must’), the spirit and wine mixture is first fermented to ensure that the grape juice turns into wine, the result is, usually, a sweet wine. The aromatic herbs, barks, and roots are then added afterwards. This is the Aromatization stage.
Stage 4: Sweetening
When the fortification and aromatization processes have been completed, the Sweetening stage begins. A sugar is added to the Vermouth depending on the manufacturer’s style of making Vermouth. The most common sugars used are either Caramelized sugar, or Cane Sugar.
Stage 5: Bottling
The completed Vermouth is then bottled and shipped to various stores and countries.
The top producers of Vermouth, globally, are Italy, and France with the United States and the UK being the only other major producers.
To get a better feel of some of the best Vermouth available in the market, below are 5 unique brands that you should definitely use when creating a Manhattan.
Martini & Rossi Rosso Sweet Vermouth
First produced in the town of Torino, Italy in 1863, this Vermouth falls under the category of Red Vermouth. As the name suggests, it is sweet Vermouth.
Market under the Martini & Rossi brand (A subsidiary of Bacardi Limited), this Vermouth is among the most widely known types of Vermouth in the global Vermouth marketplace. The manufacturer accurately describes the Rosso Sweet Vermouth as being “crafted using a select group of spices, water from Monviso in the Alps and a blend of fine wines. It has an ABV of 15%.
Upon pouring into a glass, the first characteristic is its gorgeous amber color (a variation of the red Vermouth category).
A nice whiff of the drink is exhilarating to your nose. It offers a mix of sweet scents all blended into a very unique experience.
A sip of the drink offers your palate a delicately balanced taste of herbal spices. Each herbal spice extract in the drink hits your palate in different ways providing an intriguing taste.
The finish is crisp with a sweet, but classic, taste left lingering in the mouth.
Noilly Prat Rouge Sweet Vermouth
Crowned as being the first and last Vermouth produced in the Marseilles style, Noilly Prat Rouge is manufactured near Montpelier, in Marseillan, South France. White wine is used as the base for this Vermouth. It has an ABV rating of 16%. The white wine used is aged in oak casks after which it is mixed with various spices and herbs.
This vermouth presents a herb-like fragrance mixed with a wood and musk scent.
Due to its ‘oaky’ history, this Vermouth has a malt-like taste when sipped. It is soft to the tongue and sweet to the palette.
The finishing leaves a balanced sweet and bitter taste in the mouth.
Gallo Sweet Vermouth
As red Vermouth, Gallo is resident to California in the United States. It is manufactured in a winery bearing the same name, Gallo, which was established in 1933.
It has been described as being sweet with a perfect mix of herbs that will get you wanting to drink some more. In other words, be careful!
Cinzano Sweet Rosso Vermouth
First manufactured in 1757, Click here for detailed information on this vermouth is owned by Campari Group. It has an ABV of 15% and is deemed to be very similar to Martini Rossi’s Rosso Sweet Vermouth.
Its unique selling point is in the herbs used during aromatization. These include: juniper, orange rind, cloves, and nutmeg (and a few others).
To the untrained nose, this Vermouth will smell almost similar to Martini Rosso Vermouth but with some experience, you’ll quickly notice the heightened scent of flowers and vanilla.
When tasted, the level of bitterness is a few notches higher than that of Martini Rosso Vermouth.
A lasting sweet taste is left in the mouth after finishing the sip.
Tribuno Sweet Vermouth
First produced in 1938 and named after its producer, Mario Tribuno, the Tribuno Vermouth is currently produced by The Wine Group known for its faceless brand in the United States.
Known for its almost caramel-like color, this Vermouth is widely available in the United States.
This Vermouth presents your nose with a caramel and peach mix of fragrance.
Your palate will enjoy the surprisingly well-balanced hints of sweet and bitter with a distinctly sweet finish when swallowed. This is quite surprising considering that this is a mass0-market Vermouth.
I hope this article has helped you find the best sweet vermouth for Manhattans!
Vermouth is part and parcel of key cocktails and the history backing it up adds to its sweet and bitter nature. Haven’t tried Vermouth before? Have a glass of it and come to the realization that you have definitely missed out on a glass of historic greatness. Best of luck in finding the best Vermouth for your Manhattan.